I don't have any tattoos. I have no desire to get a tattoo due to a fear of needles. But when my Crosswalk editor assigned a tattoo article with a fresh perspective, I knew whatever I would write would end in something controversial.
I wrote anyway.
I wrote it for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have a tattoo, especially one that signifies an important part of their testimony. Those markings mean a great deal to them, and I wanted to voice what so many of them had expressed to me before.
And, as expected, the article received a range of reactions, and for the first time in my life, a good number of angry Facebook emojis. I call that a win. You can check out the article here.
Why did I write something controversial?
I knew a good number of people who didn't have a voice in the Christian community. That had a tattoo (or two, or ten) or worked as a tattoo artist, but the church judged them or wouldn't listen to why they chose to have something etched in permanent ink on their forearm. Some of these people have the strongest stories of faith I know, but they couldn't have a platform to speak because of a permanent semicolon on their wrist or a cross on their foot.
TLDR: I gave a voice to those who didn't have one before
Should you write something controversial?
I really think it depends on your purpose.
You have to keep in mind that whatever you write will meet some varied reactions, and the more controversial, the more emojis you'll see pop up in your feed.
If you want to write a controversial article just for the heck of it, you might be missing the point. Not only will you just have a ton of people that you don't know mad at you, but you'll receive quite a bit of negative feedback. And as much as we would like to have a thick skin in this business, a hundred or so negative comments can weary a soul. Even the strongest ones.
But if you know someone who is marginalized, or you yourself are, and you have the power to get a conversation going about that subject, then yes, write it. I love dialogue, especially the hard stuff.
What about controversial books?
Yet again, depends.
I know Christians who have characters swear up and down in their books because they want it to be edgier and for it to evoke a certain visceral reaction in their audience.
I'm not too sure that's the best way of going about it. If you plan to cause discomfort in your audience, really know the reasoning behind it. If you want controversy to boost book sales and draw readers to your website, you can do yourself and your genre a disservice.
But if you want to give a voice to the voiceless, cause the readers to think deeply on an important topic, or bring to light an issue readers struggle to discuss, then yes. Write it.
Blaze is a bit controversial
It made the pub board a bit uncomfortable to read it. I remember getting comments like, "These descriptions are disgusting and uncomfortable."
I remember saying, "Great. That's what I was going for."
It's not exactly a lighthearted book, but also, it presents a couple breeds of Christians that don't often get a media spotlight.
The edgier, Tumblr Christian: I went to a Christian high school, and some of my best friends loved edgier things like scream-o and Tumblr. I have a character in Blaze with a slightly morbid side, who can often go to dark places.
The Christian with mental illness: Throughout the series, I have Christians who deal with severe anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and suicidal depression. It's a reality in teens. I went through it and had plenty of friends who dealt with it.
The feminist Christian: Although I waffle on where I stand in gender roles, I do have a character who is firmly a feminist.
The Christian dealing with domestic violence: Not only do several of my characters live in divorced families, but one deals with domestic violence on a regular basis.
And the thing is, every single one of those characters is a Christian with a strong faith.
Any one of those characters can cause a stir, so why write all four?
I wanted to present an idea that Christians come in all shapes and sizes, and I know several Christians who fit into multiple of the categories above. Having taken up the space of one, I remember I didn't have many books or media to look to that had a character like myself. I wanted a Christian who dealt with depression or a Christian who placed her career first above pursuing a relationship, but I didn't often find that.
And I know I had friends who also wanted to see representation in the media, too.
So I wrote the characters the way I did. Because I wanted to give them a voice they never had before. And I know I will probably get more than one one-star review or an angry emoji.
That's OK. As long as this book sparks some sort of discussion, I have done something right.
And who knows? Maybe, after my characters graduate, one of them will get a tattoo.